I have owned the domain ZenSewing.com for some years now. I don't maintain the site any longer and, in fact, it redirects to the ScrapStitching blog. Interestingly, one of the reasons I began this blog was to put all of my online sewing articles, projects, thoughts, ideas, etc. in one place, to simplify. They say that the only word you need to understand Zen is "is." Simple, but ever so deep. I wrote a piece about zen and the art of sewing for the ZenSewing site, and thought I'd share it with you here. The reason I'm doing this now is related to some lightswitch covers I'm working on. I spent a quiet hour with fabric, ModPodge, paint brushes, and other tools working toward a focused goal. I was reminded of this article and wondered if I still had a copy. I didn't. I had to go to the Wayback Machine on line to find a copy! (A lot of my writing is missing due to a recent burglary.) So, without further ado, here you go - Zen and the Art of Sewing.
Zen Sewing is sewing what you need to sew as well as what you want to sew, using items and fabrics you have on hand whenever possible, seeing the full potential in the process and in the materials. Making something out of what was once potentially nothing. Or turning a pile of yuck into a gorgeous garment or craft item. It's quilt making. It's sewing for children and for their children, garments of your choice or in the design of the late 70s and early 80s, as well as boutique items and fancy clothes or accessories. It's designing and creating clothing for 18" dolls or making the dolls themselves. It's making a set of placemats or embellishing a pair of pillowcases. It's recycling denim and making all sorts of things out it. It's stitching up something for donation to a local nursing home or hospital. Zen Sewing is something you get lost in, are directed to, and need to do to satisfy not only your receiver/customer, but yourself. Something that you do for you. Something you do because it is there to be done.
Zen also includes giving. To give is to receive. One of our community project ideas is dolls for donation. We collect 18" dolls, clean them up if they're used, give them a haircut if they need one, and then make clothing for them. These dolls and an outfit or two are then donated to a child at the battered women's shelter or the Child Protective Services Department. You can also contact your fire department or police department and see if they would be willing to give them to a child in crisis. Work on a local level and encourage others to do the same. If you have 18" dolls (like American Girl Dolls, Tolly Tots, Our Generation, and many other manufacturers), fix it up and donate it to someone in need.
How often have you gotten lost in your sewing projects? I do it all the time. I may start out with an end result in mind, but there are times when I am not exactly sure of every step I took from start to finish. Think about those times you have driven home or somewhere else and you looked up and wondered, "How did I get here so quickly?" (Or even "How did I get here?" at all!) Though your safety could be an issue on the highway, I look at the act of sewing in the same manner - how'd I get that done? Let's start from the beginning.
Life is fairly chaotic for most of us these days. We live in a hurry up world and have many deadlines for ourselves, our children, our pets, our jobs, our everything! We have to make time to sew. And when we do, there is a process that should be followed in order to get the project done. Say it's a garment - pick out a pattern (contemplate the books or the internet for choices), choose a fabric (with sight, touch, whimsical fancy), prepare the fabric (wash, dry, fold, press), lay out the pattern (order, planning, or even a mish-mosh of pieces here and there), pin it or weight it (taking control of the fabric and the pattern), cut it out (slowly, methodically reshaping the fabric to your will), and then sit down and put the pieces together to create a whole. You may or may not refer to your pattern, you may or may not pin the pieces, but you will put thread to needle (either by hand or machine) and begin to sew at some point. The sewing by machine - that's where the meditation can come in. The sound, annoying to some, is music to my ears. The hum of the machine as it makes stitch after stitch, controlled by my foot on the pedal, and the fabric controlled by my hands. I don't hear the sound after some time. I get lost in the project, putting one piece here, another piece there, stopping to press seams or serge them finished, and using a life's experience of sewing how-to in one setting. I think back to days when my children were young and I made smaller items of clothing, back to Christmases past when I would make gifts from fabric or hand embroider items. I find myself being calm when I sew. Whether it be the hum and lull of the machine that takes me down a meditative path or the constant movement of my hand as I take stitch after stitch with a hand quilting project.
I take refuge in the sewing, I "become one" with the machine. The act of sewing takes me away, brings me some sanity and peace when I need it most. Isn't that the enlightenment we all need from time to time? No wonder I come back time and again to my machine and my hand sewing. I need it as much as I need the item I am producing.
Who knew sewing could be this deep?